Ivory Coast: 7 in 10 Women Sexually Abused, Researcher Says
October 13, 2006
In Abidjan recently, Ethel Higonnet of New York-based Human Rights Watch presented the initial findings from her research into sexual violence in Ivory Coast since 2002. She said she found widespread sexual slavery, incest and rape, with 70 percent of women being regular victims of sexual violence.
Although Ivorian legislation calls for jail terms of up to 20 years for rape, the political crisis in the country -- with the north controlled by rebels and the south dominated by the government -- has undermined the judicial system and led to a culture of impunity that leaves perpetrators unpunished.
Higonnet said in the western part of the country, sexual slavery and rape are widespread, with the age of victims ranging from 3 to 75.
Despite those statistics, "We have seen only three cases of punishment for sexual violence in the west in four years," Higonnet said. She added that military checkpoints in the southern part of the country have become "epicenters of sexual violence, as armed forces sexually abuse young girls there."
Tenin Toure-Diabate, sociology professor at the University of Cocody in Abidjan, said it is essential for military commanders to institute disciplinary measures to stop troops from abusing women.
Drissa Bamba, coordinator at the Ivorian Movement of Human Rights, said enhancements in training and recruiting procedures will help change solders' attitudes toward sexual violence.
Higonnet is critical of Ivorian medical services, which she said fail to provide support for victims, despite the fact that abused women face the possibility of infection with HIV and other STDs. "Women are often victims of a lack of medical care, of confidentiality in health centers," she said, adding that the expense of consultations is also an issue.
Inter Press Service
10.08.2006; Fulgence Zamble